Expanding Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities
Volume #3
March 2017

Table of Contents

Matt and Lucy sitting outside in the Azalea Bowl in Callaway Gardens, GA.
A note from Matt.....

This month is Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month, CP is the most common motor disability in childhood, where it effects one out of 323 children.  However, like with most disabilities, each person's disability is different and their needs are different.  In this edition, we tell you about Anthony Merchante, who uses a service animal for both his seizures and other needs. 

DIG in the news
March 4, 2017, Time For Florida to ensure all access, Matthew Dietz, Letter to the Editor, Miami Herald, http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/letters-to-the-editor/article136365998.html
March 16, 2017, PR Newswire, Morgan & Morgan, Disability Independence Group Recover $400K from Orlando Housing Authority for Disability Rights Violation, http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/morgan--morgan-disability-independence-group-recover-400k-from-orlando-housing-authority-for-disability-rights-violation-300424617.html

Out and About with DIG
Jacobus tenBroek Conference
Baltimore, MD
FL Fair Housing Summitt
Orlando, FL
ABC's of ESA's (tentative)
New Orleans, LA
Fair Housing Act Workshop
Ft. Lauderdale, FL
2017 Florida Guardian Ad Litem Disabilities Training Conference
Orlando, FL
Disability employment policies and ADA compliance for Best Buddies
Miami, FL
Family Cafe
Orlando, FL
FL Bar Conference
Boca Raton, FL
FL Recreation & Parks Association
Orlando, FL
Give Miami Day 2017
Online Event
flyer for Waving Hands picnic on June 3, 2017 at 11am at Joseph Caleb Auditorium.
Lucy helping Debbie with her work.  Lucy is laying across Debbie's desk with her back feet on a chair and her body and front paws on the desk.
Lucy helping Debbie with her work.

Lisa and Kailea standing after depositions.
Lisa and Kailea after depositions.

Sharon standing with the amazing interpreters that were at the Vagina Monologues.
Sharon with Debbie Gibson and Jessica, the amazing interpreters at the Vagina Monologues.

Claudia, Yare, Sharon, Matt, and Debbie at the Vagina Monologues.
The DIG team supporting Casa Valentina and the Vagina Monologues.

Yare standing in front of her birthday cake with the candles lit.
Happy Birthday Yare.

Lisa teaching a girl scout troop about disability rights and support animals.
Lisa teaching a girl scout troop about disability rights and support animals.

Mr. Rosario and his grandchildren.
Litigation Update: Mr. Rosario
By: Matthew Dietz

Most times when a person requests a reasonable accommodation or a modification because of a disability, the accommodation or modification assists a person to live independently or lessens the effect of a disability. Many of these accommodations cost nothing to a provider, yet may mean the difference between living independently and living in an assisted living facility or nursing home, or as this case, the difference between life and death.
Morgan & Morgan's Belvin Perry, Jr., and Disability Independence Group's Matthew Dietz announce a groundbreaking $400,000 disability rights settlement with the Orlando Housing Authority that could help improve reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities. Discrimination based upon disabilities make
up over 50 percent of all fair housing complaints, including reasonable accommodation or modification denials. For a federally subsidized housing provider, such as the Orlando Housing Authority, the subsidized housing provider has the obligation to pay for and provide a modification to the premises (such as a roll in shower or permanent ramp), or an accommodation by a change in a rule, such as a larger apartment to accommodate a live in aide, or relocation to a first floor apartment.   
Matt with Anthony, Monica, and Stevie the dog.
The Long Dog Walk to Justice.
By: Matthew Dietz

In 2009, Ehlena Fry, an eight-year-old girl, living with spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, obtained "Wonder" a specially trained and certified service dog who helps Ehlena with retrieving dropped items, helping her balance when she uses her walker, opening and closing doors, turning on and off lights, helping her take off her coat, helping her transfer to and from the toilet. Wonder also helps Ehlena to develop independence and confidence and helps her bridge social barriers. She was denied permission to bring her service animal to her Ohio public school, and it took eight years to finally receive vindication of her rights from the United States Supreme Court to bring her service animal to school under the ADA on February 22, 2017. The main issue in the case is whether she was required to exhaust administrative procedures under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to bring claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Two years earlier, on February 10, 2015, Disability Independence Group v indicated seven year old, Anthony Merchante's rights to bring his service animal to school under the ADA. Like Ehlena, Anthony Marchante lives with cerebral palsy and is highly prone to seizures. His medium-sized terrier service dog, Stevie, alerts others to oncoming convulsions and helps calm the boy by licking his face. Stevie was prescribed by Anthony's neurologist at Miami Children's Hospital and is part of Anthony's treatment protocol. In order to be a service animal, the dog must have a temperament that allows it to stay focused on its job.
Zach getting ready to give a speech.
zachI might be in a wheelchair, but I don't just sit on my ass.

I recently went on Medicare, Social Security Disability Income, Florida Managed Medical Assistance Medicaid, and Florida Long Term Care Medicaid. Sometimes it truly feels like a full time job just juggling all of these benefit programs. The most vital of these programs and the hardest to obtain is Florida Long Term Care Medicaid. This programs is what gives me the care I need to do the things that most can do independently. Medicare and Florida Managed Medical Assistance Medicaid are great programs that cover traditional medical expenses just like typical health insurance that most can purchase or receive from an employer. Since I have worked in the past and earned income credits I receive a check from the federal government in the form Social Security Disability Income which is wonderful, but not nearly enough to cover my living expenses.

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kids Kids Crusaders Corner
By: Julie Fioravanti 

Julie will be back soon with a new story.
purple ribbon for Domestic Violence month with the words love shouldn't hurt written on it
MiA Miami Inclusion Alliance
By: Sharon Langer 

My column usually describes statistics about the intersection of domestic violence and sexual assault and disability or describes gaps and barriers to help for persons with disability. This month, in honor of Cerebral Palsy Month, I wanted to share some positive initiatives. The following is a statement from End Abuse of People with Disabilities. The End Abuse of People with Disabilities website is managed by the Center on Victimization and Safety (CVS) at the Vera Institute of Justice.

Click here to read more
If you are interested in volunteering please contact Sharon Langer at Sharon@justdigit.org.
head shot of Lisa standing in front of legal books.

I have been exploring other channels then just my usuals and found myself on Freeform f/k/a ABC Family lately and I have been seeing commercials for a show called Switched at Birth. Disclaimer: I have yet to see an episode so I have no idea if the show is good. But has been around since 2011- probably evident that it is a good show.
You're probably wondering where my intrigue stems from since I have only seen commercials  Well, from the looks of the commercials, one of the main characters and some of the other characters communicate in American sign language.  As you may know, many of the cases we litigate involve effective communication for our deaf clients. 
Click here to read more
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Are you a SSDI or SSI beneficiary? How a Community Work Incentives Coordinator (CWIC) or benefits planner can help you?

If you receive Social Security benefits and you have a job or are looking for one, there are specially trained professionals known as Community Work Incentive Coordinators (CWIC) to help you make sense of complex employment and benefit-related issues.

For additional questions please call the TTW help line at 1-866-968-7842 / 866-833-2967 (TTY) Monday through Friday from 8:00AM - 8:00PM EST. For general inquiries, you may e-mail support@chooseworkttw.net .
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justine The View From Here
By: Justine Chichester

Perspective. I once heard it said that perspective is the way we see things when we look at them from a certain distance and that allows us to appreciate their value.
I never could have anticipated how different living life as a wheelchair user could be. After coming home from the hospital, one of the first social outings I had was a night out at a restaurant for my friend's birthday. At this point, I had been home for awhile and I felt like I successfully tackled many of the challenges I faced just getting dressed, putting on my shoes, putting on makeup; all of which can be daunting when you are living with a spinal cord injury. But I had not yet been out and about in a social setting. Nothing could have prepared me for how strange I would feel socializing in a seated position while everyone stood tall around me.
Click here to read more

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wallet The Wallet Card Project
By: Deborah Dietz 

The wallet card is a tool for young adults or adults to use when come into contact with law enforcement; either as a victim, a witness, or as a potential suspect.

The wallet card will help to clarify any interaction with law enforcement so that the behavior of the person with a disability is not misinterpreted as suspicious or as criminal behavior.

Click here to sign up for a wallet card

The Wallet Card Project is a collaboration with DIG, CGPD, and UM-NSU CARD.
Lorinda in front of a cabinet in her home.

Laughter is the best medicine!
Life is a mix of sweet and sour, good and bad days. It's easy as a person with a disability to become inundated by life's challenges - especially since we have a bit more to overcome than the average Joe. Just this morning on my way to work, I had to quickly change plan to avoid the impending rain - a big no-no for a motorized wheelchair user. There are a number of different disabilities people have, many that start at birth, some that progress throughout life and those due to accidents. Cerebral Palsy is a permanent movement disorder that appears in early childhood. Symptoms of the disability can include poor coordination, stiff muscles, weak muscles, and tremors. Many individuals with CP also experience difficulty swallowing, with their vision and often times with speech. There are also incidents where seizures and challenges with thinking or reasoning can be a challenge.

Click here to read more
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The cover of the book Your Upward Journey by Patricia Bochi
Your Upward Journey

In a nutshell, Your Upward Journey: It Is Easier Than You Think!, is a three-part project (book, self-help seminars and merchandise sale). I intend to promote the book through self-help seminars and sale of merchandise, such as mugs, journals etc.

Logo for the fair housing video series.

A colored drawing of an open box with 3 small penguins surrounded by stuffing.
A Parcel of Penguins

A PARCEL OF PENGUINS: an Animal Counting Book is a Children's book that teaches unusual names of groups of animals. The book is entertaining and informative for all ages. 
Click here to purchase the book
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For more information about DIG and to find out how you can be involved, please call or email our Executive Director, Debbie Dietz at 305-669-2822 or debbie@justdigit.org.

Disability Independence Group, Inc.
Expanding Opportunities for Person with Disabilities
Thank you to the organizations that support our projects.
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Disability Independence Group | 305-669-2822 | info@justdigit.org